Tag Archives: iphone

Mobile Check In: Fad or Function?

If you follow the technology business at all, you know that one of the hot new trends is “checking in,” whereby you use an application on your smartphone to tell the world, or at least your friends, where you are. Using the now free wifi at your local Starbucks? Check in. Just ordered a Manhattan at the hip new bar? Check in from there. You can see where your friends are, and vice versa, and if you check in frequently enough, you may get special status.

There are a jillion companies offering these applications now, each with annoying names reminiscent of the dot com boom of a decade ago: Loopt, Whrrl, Gowalla, Foursquare (now with Snoop Dogg on the service!) and Check.in to aggregate them all. Plus big players are expected to enter the business: Yelp already has, Google is circling, and Facebook is the 800 pound gorilla everyone fears, with rumors that they are buying Hot Potato.

The question is whether any of these services will be more than just another fad briefly embraced by fedora-wearing technorati hipsters in SF, NY and Austin. Being “mayor” of the local pub only goes so far. Knowing where your friends are is nice, but email and text can do that. For checking in to have legs, it needs to add actual value beyond its current novelty. Getting discounts from the bars and restaurants where you check in frequently – now that is valuable. Assistance in meeting members of the opposite sex (or same sex…however you roll) is valuable.

Clear and tangible benefits need to be provided, and in a way that can’t be gamed; bars won’t participate if they are getting scammed for free drinks. All the check in players are working on this – they aren’t stupid – but nobody has hit on a winning formula yet. In the meantime, when you read the breathless press about this amazing new capability, remember that it’s not a business yet. Or, appreciate the savagery of Time magazine, which called Foursquare “just another tool tapping into a generation of narcissism.”

iPhone Bad For the Psyche?

I recently saw a magazine ad for the iPhone. This ad was promoting the app store, and was specifically pushing small business apps. “Helping you run your small business, one app at a time” was the headline of the ad. This post isn’t about the iPhone per se, although my friends know how I mock their Apple toys, and how I compare the iPhone to the Range Rover: overpriced, unreliable, and purchased primarily for brand status. Hmmm, maybe I should compare it to a Gucci purse instead….

Anyway, the point is not the iPhone; the point is some of these ridiculous apps. I call them ridiculous because they do things that nobody needs to do while mobile. Let me list a few here:

  • Nomia: Get help picking a business name, finding available domain names and running trademark searches.
  • Analytics: See how your website is doing with reports showing visitors, page views, etc.
  • Credit Card Terminal: Accept customer credit card payments right on your phone.

Here’s the thing: I do run a small business, and I have never had the urge to do any of those things while mobile. When I’m analyzing my website or processing orders, I’m doing it at my computer, so that I can make adjustments or run things through my accounting software. I can certainly imagine circumstances where one might want to do such things while on the run, but those circumstances are rare.

Some might say: why be tethered to your computer? But I retort: why be connected all the time? Do you really want to check your website performance while at the beach? I relish the chance to disconnect. As more and more Americans are complaining about lack of time to think, or play, or spend with their kids, do we really need to be online more? Instead of apps that let you look at your website stats while on the bus, maybe Apple should promote apps that remind you to read to your children.